Saturday, July 31, 2010

Have less, Need God more, See God more

There’s a common observation I’ve made amongst team members that come to Haiti (including myself). Many of them say that they enjoy coming to Haiti to get away from the distractions at home; when they’re here, they can see God so much more. One girl from this past team described it as a “spiritual detox” for her every year- to re-examine herself, see what needs to go, get rid of it, and see God more clearly. I have to agree that I see God more clearly here too. But why is that? We serve the same God whether here or in the States, so why do our circumstances or location affect how clearly we see God? This was the conclusion I came to yesterday: There is so much less here that we can’t depend on our resources or conveniences to get us through; all we’re left with is God, and when we realize we need God more, we see God more. Let me give you some examples from my perspective (keeping in mind my resources here in Haiti and what I have is far greater than the Haitians around me so how much more must they [Christians] be relying on God?):
  • Things I first saw as junk here I’m now seeing as gold: plastic bags from the grocery store. At home, we save them until they take up half a closet and then pitch them because of the nuisance they’ve become. I have had to keep my eyes open for plastic bags this summer because I didn’t bring anything to carry my things around. And yesterday, we needed to tie shoes together so pairs wouldn’t get separated in the shoe pantry; solution: tear plastic bags, that we had just designated as “trash” because they had holes in them, into strips to use as ties.
  • Large pill bottles become water bottles.
  • Paper doesn’t enter the trash until both sides of it are completely full; where else where you write notes? I came across a notepad for Christi the other day- she was so excited!
  • Junky boxes when unfolded become a mattress to lie on or a corner of it becomes a fan for church.
  • Empty plastic juice bottles become Tupperware and empty tin cans can be used as containers or recycled to make graters, musical instruments, or who knows what else.
  • One minute I see a dirty pen cap on the ground; the next minute, I see a brand new whistle for a little boy as he blows through one end of it.

A tote bag, a water bottle, sticky notes, a simple place to sleep, storage containers (for all of our STUFF), toys…These are all so commonplace, things we have in abundance, or things that seem essential. We don’t think twice about them. When we need a plastic bag, we go get one from the closet. When out water bottle gets a little worn, we go buy a new one. When we can’t find the matching Tupperware lid after 2 minutes, we get frustrated and go buy a new stack of Gladware. When our toys stop working, we trash it and then go buy the newest latest and greatest. We do all of this without thinking, without hesitation.

Here, it’s different. When you find a piece of paper with a blank back side- keep it; you’re going to need it soon; thank you, Jesus! An old piece of paper or a small piece of cardboard becomes a fan! Praise the Lord! So simple, but so beneficial! I can’t begin to count the number of times I have needed something so small, something that at home, it would be nothing to go get it or buy it, but here, when I spot it or something that could work for what I need, it becomes a treasure- thank you Jesus! I know this is a gift from You!

When you have less, you begin to understand Jesus more. “The Rich Young Man” (Mk. 10:17-31) turned away sad when Jesus told him that in order to inherit eternal life, he should sell everything he had so he could follow Jesus. The rich man walked away sad realizing all he would have to give up. “The Widow’s Offering” (Mk. 12:41-44) was worth more than what the rich men gave. She had almost nothing but gave everything she had. She gave without thought, without contemplation, without hesitation. It was instinct; it was natural; it was right. How do we become like that? We live with less because then we need God more. When we need God more, we see God more. When we see God more, we understand God more. When we understand God more, we know God more. When we know God more, we need God more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Change of plans

Tomorrow is July 28th. I should be waking up in 4 hours to get on a bus to head for the airport and fly back to my home country to see friends and family. Instead, I’ll be waking up to see the team off and go back to bed because I’m going to stay in Haiti for another month! All of this happened last Friday over a series of many emails and prayers.

Keith and Christi had joked about me leaving with all the work left to be done, but I knew there was an element of seriousness to it in that if I was here, I could definitely be used. After talking with them a little more seriously, I decided to email Gretchen to say that if I would be of use and benefit to stay, then I would be more than happy to do so but not because I wanted to, but only if Lifeline needed or could use me here. I was happy to stay or happy to go home. I got an email back from Gretchen saying that she had wanted to ask me to stay but didn’t because if I couldn’t, she didn’t want me to feel guilty about going home. (I love seeing God in every little detail of life). I then emailed the three most important people in my life- Dad, Mom, and my brother Josh- to get their thoughts and make sure if I stayed I wouldn’t be missing anything at home. I was so overwhelmed by their response and with how incredibly blessed I am to have them as my family. Mom and Dad said that the selfish side of them wanted me to come home so they could see me, but they knew that if I was going to stay, God’s timing in all of this was perfect and if God was opening this door, they would gladly support my staying with their blessing. Josh emailed me and in a sentence said, “You know I’m a logical guy, so it’s pretty obvious what you should do; see you in a month!” Mom, Dad, Josh- I love you guys more than you know; there are no words to express my love and thanks to God for the gift He gave me with you.

However, my Haitian friends have been clarifying with me for the past couple of weeks that I was leaving on July 28th. Thus, I began receiving many hugs, gifts, and goodbyes last week. It has been a blessing to tell my dear friends that I am staying for one more month and to hear their shouts of joy and receive their huge hugs. I got called up front in church on Sunday to give my farewell address and to sing a song. I thanked them for the blessing they have been this summer and then gave them the news. Wow, the shouts of joy! But all rejoicing and glory must be given back to God, for that is where ALL glory is due. My favorite response came today though. I hadn’t seen my sponsored girl Mykenlove for about a week. She hadn’t heard the news yet. When I asked her if she knew when I was leaving, she said, “Tomorrow.” When I told her, I received the biggest hug and smile; similar to the first time she saw me the beginning of the summer. I love her with all my heart.

Thank you ALL for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement. I will see you August 25th.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two passions meet

Obviously I have a passion for Haiti. But I have another passion that fewer people know about. It’s encouraging and loving on girls/young women and helping them to see that their identity cannot be found in materialistic things, boys, success, status, or anything else, but that their identity can only be found in Christ. And when that identity is realized, their beauty is revealed. Yesterday afternoon, God brought my two passions together.

For the most part, my closest friends in Haiti are guys because there are a lot of young men that work for Lifeline but few females and none that are my age. Because I work with these men a lot, I’ve gotten to know them the most and have become good friends with them. However, this summer, I have gotten to know more girls, most of them in their late teens, but it has been such a blessing to develop some girl friends this time! Yesterday I was sitting outside reading, and I saw young woman, Jordanie, walking my way. I’d talked with her a few times but didn’t really know her other than she’s the girl that everyone knows as the singer because she has a beautiful voice. She sat down and we began talking. (It amazes me how God opens my ears and mouth to understand enough Creole at times when I can’t rely on anyone else.) She was telling me about her family and said that her father isn’t around. I asked if he died, and she said no. He is crazy in the head and abandoned her and her mother when she was very young. “I’m going to cry,” she told me and continued as her eyes welled up with tears. He is not a part of her life and does not love her. She also told me that she doesn’t have girl friends here in Haiti because girls here aren’t always too nice. The friends she has are guys because they encourage her to sing for the Lord.

My heart broke for her, and as I saw her eyes well with tears, mine started to do the same. The hurts in her life are not specific to Haiti. Her longing to have friendship and be loved is the desire of every girl and woman. Every female on this planet wants to know that she is loved and that someone will be there to fight for her, and I think the most important initial source of that love that a girl can know, is the love from her earthy father. When girls don’t experience that, it has lasting effects on their life and relationships down the road. I wrapped my arms around my nineteen year old friend and was thankful for the words God gave me in Creole: “I want you to know that even when you don’t have the love from your father here in Haiti or on this earth; when girls are not nice, and you don’t have any friends; you have a Father in heaven who will always love you and always be there for you. He will never abandon you, and you are His daughter. I know you already know that, but never forget that.” Her eyes glistened over with tears again as I spoke. Oh how my heart broke for her while simultaneously overflowed with love for Jordanie.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2: 9) Jordanie, you are the daughter to the King. You are His princess, and He lavishes His love on you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Today I went to my first funeral in Haiti. Yesterday I was practicing a song with Gracienne when a group of high school aged students started gathering because they had repetisyon. Gracienne told me that Chadavoine’s brother had passed away Friday afternoon, and this group of students was practicing a song they were going to sing at the funeral. I know Chadavoine. She is a very sweet girl, about 16. She would try and speak English with me and always wore a beautiful smile. Gracienne told me he was 25 and died from a head tumor. It was somewhat expected, though not necessarily any easier to deal with. Gracienne told me the funeral was at 4:00 the next day and asked if I would come.

Around 2:30 today, the wailing, singing, and music began. I still had to finish my work for the day, and some of the translators I know were planning on going and they weren’t going to be there until 4ish, so I knew I was okay. I ran back and quick showered and changed into my black and white outfit, typical Haiti funeral attire, before going over. When I got there, the church was packed, and it had begun raining. I was standing in the front right side of the church, opposite the casket, which was closed. The choir had just begun singing; it was heavenly. After the song, Pastor Luc began his message. Gracienne and some of my other girl friends were now standing with me. I asked Gracienne if he knew Jesus. He did. She probably told me some other things about him, but I didn’t understand it all, but I did understand that he was tall and that many people knew him, which was evident by the number of people there. I remembered a few weeks ago during a Ladies Bible Study, Chadavoine began crying, but I didn’t know what was wrong. I asked Gracienne if she was crying about her brother that day, and she said yes.

I was hoping to see Chadavoine to pay my respects or however they do that, but I never did see her. Apparently she was sitting towards the front with other family, but there were so many people there, I couldn’t find her. After Pastor Luc’s message, they must have removed the casket, though I didn’t see it leave, because the next time I looked, it was gone. Many people had left too, but a bunch stayed while some members of the band continued to play music. I think they were headed to the cemetery. I was a little confused by those of us who stayed behind because the music was upbeat, people seemed to be enjoying themselves, and some people were even dancing. Gracienne left, but some of the other girls I knew were still there. They wanted me to dance. I know I’m in another culture, but it just felt wrong. I asked if people are happy at a funeral. The family is very sad and the others are less sad, but I was assured it’s okay to dance to the jazz music that was playing. It seemed odd at first, but I guess it’s the same way in the States. The family is very sad, and the other people are sad too, but yet people also are enjoying one another’s company and catching up on what’s going on in each others’ lives.

I left at 6:00. When I saw Christi, she asked me about the funeral. “Was it Rudolph’s son?” Everything started to click. Rudolph is one of our head masons for the homes we build. I had met his son, Tiga, a couple times earlier this summer out in tent city. We prayed for him once because he had some sort of illness in his head, but I didn’t understand what. He had approached me another day, remembered my name, and I prayed for him again. He was a very tall, good-looking man who appeared healthy. I had no idea his sister was Chadavoine or that Chadavoine was also Rudolph’s daughter. My mood had already changed now thinking I knew the person’s funeral I went to. I had only met him a couple times, but now the body in the casket had a face; I knew his name, and he knew mine. I asked Sylvia who was working in the kitchen if the funeral was for Tiga. She said yes. My stomach dropped. I didn’t do all the “why God?” questions, but my heart truly hurt for Tiga’s family.

1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods ? "Selah" 3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. 4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. "Selah" 5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. 6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. 7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
~Psalms 4

Quick update

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in my blog, so here are some things and thoughts that have happened since I last wrote.

  • I was really busy helping lead the workteams while the Dimbaths and Curlees (American staff) were in the States celebrating Lifeline’s 30th year anniversary. All four of them returned a week ago, and that’s been a blessing to have them back.
  • This past weekend included some downtime and relaxation before this last team arrived last night: a drive to DP, beach, hamburgers, church, and restaurant.
  • Sunday after church, I was walking back to the house where I’m staying and heard some children yelling Sa-Rah! repeatedly and in unison from behind a fence about 100 yards away. Since I had time, I went over there to say hello. They were so precious and of course told me everything they needed- shoes, clothes, etc. I told them I didn’t have anything I could give them, and then they said, “Priye pou nou.” (Pray for us.) That of course I could do. I absolutely love hearing the way people say my name, especially the children, but I prayed that they would shout the name of Jesus before they would shout my name. Then, through the fence, I gave them each a kiss.
  • Last week Wednesday during Ladies Bible study, I sang another song with my friend, Gracienne. It was such a privilege to be able to sing praises to our Lord with my dear friend in a language that is not my own.
  • Yesterday I was with Gracienne as she was teaching me a new song when a crowd of high-school age people began gathering. They were about to begin repetisyon (choir practice). I sat with them and listened as they sang. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.
  • God continues to open up my ears, mouth, and heart to Creole (praise God!). I have begun praying in Creole with some of my patients in clinic. I tell them what I don’t know how to say, God hears in my heart. I’m so thankful for how God has been answering that prayer, especially in the last month. I pray for motivation to continue to learn it when I go home.
  • These sweet Haitian people are always praying, and they always remember us Americans in their prayers too. I have been so blessed as many of them have told me they are praying for me. And they main thing they are praying for: a husband! “Sa-rah, you are 22 and you finished with university. You need boyfriend and then husband! Why you not have boyfriend yet?” (If any of you have a good answer for that question, let me know because I’ve been trying to figure that one out all summer ;-) One of the ladies who works in the kitchen, Madame Therese, greets me with a hug every morning and says, “How is my little girl? My baby! Me your mommy! I love you!” Last week she told me she’s praying for her son, and after the conversation we had just had about my lack of boyfriend, I know her “son” was referencing a future tense noun.
  • The team that got here Monday night is the team I will leave with next week Wednesday. Part of me is ready to go home to see all of you whom I miss, but at the same time, I’m not at all ready to leave. I have been praying a lot over the last month that God would give me guidance and wisdom as I begin this new phase of my life when I return home, since I will not be returning to Northwestern this fall. I really have no clue what will happen in the next year of my life, but I am excited for the opportunities God has for me at home and for the doors He will open. I pray for the next opportunity to return to Haiti and that it is sooner rather than later, but I know it’s not about what I want, and that God’s plan is sovereign. As is a common phrase here in Haiti, si Bondye vle (if God wants).

God is so beautifully good. Someone on a workteam this summer asked if my internship is paid. I told him I get paid so much more than what I deserve, but not with money. I know God has used me to touch and bless lives of Haitian people in His name, but I feel so much more blessed. My heart continues to overflow with love for these people.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

If you feed an ant a crumb...

Before I can tell you what happened today, let me back up. When I first got to Haiti in May, I had to move a bunch of relief food that was shipped down to Haiti after the quake out of the room I was going to use for therapy. In the process of moving, someone spotted a rat that scurried away as a box was picked up. Fortunately, I was not in the room at the time, because rodents and I don’t do so well together. It was then discovered that this was a mama rat to a few babies. A brave man from the team disposed of the rats for me, but to say I had no hesitations about re-entering that room would be a lie. Every morning as I enter my therapy room, I have this ritual that goes as follows: knock, knock, “Get out! Get out! Get out! I’m coming in!” knock, knock, hand reaches in door to turn light on, knock, knock! Slowly walk in and hope that as I scan the room, I’ve given enough time for any creature in there to escape. I can say with great joy that since that first day, there have been no rats. However, we have had quite the array of other creatures. The first day I was in there to do therapy…


…there were many cockroaches. I did not appreciate them, but for the most part, they confined themselves to the stone wall that boarders outside. I reported this to Bobby who then fumigated the room for me the next day. Problem solved.

Next critter: at least 3 tarantulas. Once again, do not like them nor appreciate them in any way, but, they too, still confine themselves to the stone wall. I won’t bother them and will pray that they don’t bother me. I’m not sure where they have disappeared to, but I have not seen them for awhile. Thank you Jesus.

And the next: this critter revealed itself to me late last week. As I was working with a patient lying on my therapy table, I looked up toward the stone wall…


… which houses the box air conditioner. I saw something tan colored and fuzzy. “Hmm, that looks like it could be…”; take a step to the right and make eye contact, “Yes, that is a mouse.” I don’t like mice. A mouse is a rodent. Not okay with me. “But I don’t see it’s tail; that makes it a little better. Sarah, it’s almost cute.” No, not cute; never cute…still a rodent. Pastor Raburn notices my distracted eyes and inquires. (The dialogue between us is also comical but too lengthy to add to this blog.) I spotted this mouse again this past Monday in the same spot. Definitely alive but has not entered the room. This makes me feel better because it knows it is not welcome further in. But this scares me. Why hasn’t it moved? I don’t like mouse babies. Today, no mouse sighting….


Okay, today: I enter my room beginning with my usual ritual. I see no rat or mouse. Check. But there is an usual trail of black leading to the center of the floor. There is a highway of ants. What crumb was left on the floor I do not know. Who left that crumb, I do not like. But as unappealing as these creatures are, I have to admit they are quite fascinating and impressive. The way they work together to accomplish the same task; they are so organized…surely there is a spiritual application here. My friend, Christina was with me today. I sent her back to the dorm to get a bottle of ant killer. She returns and begins to fumigate, and the genocide begins. I tell her that they appear to be trailing along the floor of the stone wall, so she sprays there too. Mind you, I currently have a patient on my table that I am working with (sweet little Passianna). (This table sits parallel and about three feet off of the stone wall and I am on the side of the table facing the wall.) As Christina begins to spray towards the walls, a couple cockroaches magically appear from behind the stones. She sprays them. But they are feistier than the ants; they fall to the ground but don’t die so suddenly. This spraying action, however, causes more unhappy roaches to reveal themselves from behind stones. Thus, she sprays them, but this begins an unwanted cyclical pattern of more and more cockroaches coming forth. (NOTE: these are not little cockroaches but average 2 inches in length.) There are now cockroaches spinning in circles on their backs on the floor. The logical thing to do would be to step on them and kill them, but this I will not do because they are too big and that would be disgusting to feel the crunch beneath my foot. As she sprays the wall directly across from me and my patient, I see the cockroach fly off the wall. Then I feel something land on my leg. I drop Passianna’s arm, shake my leg, see a roach fall to the floor and stomp on it…DEAD. Victory! Now, I am overcome with a superSarah strength and killing rage. These roaches will not kill me; I will kill them! Any roach that makes its way towards me meets my foot. Stomp! Dead! Another and another! “Bring it on, roach!” This went on for about five minutes. There were a few on the wall that I know I couldn’t stomp. I grabbed my gun (aka. a crutch) and jab at it! Miss. Shoot. Jab again! Dead! Victory! Meanwhile, Passianna is lying on my table not completely sure of what all is happening, but she is laughing at the high excitement and emotion in the room. Finally, we are done. Pastor Raburn goes to find a broom. He sweeps the corpses into the center of the room. Probably 20 of them. I grab my camera; “Souri!” (“Smile!”) I say to them, and snap their photo. Pastor sweeps them into a bucket and disposes of them outside. Victory is ours. No, victory is the Lord’s! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Every emotion in an hour

On Thursday, I went with the team to help put up the block walls of the home they were working on. (Josh, I consider building a house to be my WOD ;-). By the time we left to head back for lunch, my dress was literally soaked with sweat, and I had mortar, dust, and dirt everywhere. I was filthy.

We got back, and I was going to wash up quick before lunch, but I was told I was needed in clinic right away because, Pete, an American man who was at the other house site “broke” his finger. My athletic training mind kicked on. My initial thought was, “That looks dislocated,” but I’ve never actually seen a dislocated finger before. I was really hesitant to do anything because it could have been broken too, and I didn’t want to cause any further damage. Pete’s wife and another gal were out there (both nurses). A couple of the Haitian nurses were there too, and one of them tried to reset it. Pete is a strong man, but he was doing everything he could to not scream his lungs out. It didn’t go back in. I then had a “for such a time as this” moment. I knew I needed to try to reduce the dislocation and put it back and pray I wouldn’t make anything worse. I got down, pulled on his finger, knowing Pete was dying with pain. We all heard a little pop, and thought it went back in. It looked a little better, but it still wasn’t fully back in. I began feeling nauseous and a little dizzy and had to kneel on the floor. We decided to try one more time, but I knew I couldn’t do it; it was hard for me to even look at it. Amy, one of the other nurses, decided to try; we again heard a pop, and it went back in. The girls then splinted his finger, and then we headed back for lunch.

I was so frustrated and disappointed in myself. I know I’m not a failure, but I felt like one because I should’ve been able to relocate a finger; I’m an athletic trainer for goodness sake! What’s my problem? I was very thankful that Amy was able to reduce it, but why couldn’t I do it? What does this mean for me in the future when I’m in a situation and I have to do something? Am I going to feel nauseous again? I know that nobody was disappointed in me other than myself, but those were my thoughts.

I was walking back for lunch from the clinic having all these thoughts when I spotted Lorita (our other sponsored girl) and her mother. I was happy to see them but very confused because they live a few cities away, and it’s not like them to come unexpectedly. Robenson, my translator friend, was with me and helped me out. Apparently when my parents were with me last week and we went to visit them at their house, they told me they were coming, but somehow that was missed in the translation that day. I wasn’t sure what to do because I was still filthy dirty, already a half hour late for lunch but couldn’t just leave them there either. They were wearing their new clothes we had given them the week before, and said they had a gift for me. “A” gift that consisted of a large pot and bag of food- enough for a small army (I can’t imagine how much it cost them)! Pineapples, coconuts, bananas, mangos, corn, granadia, eggs, avocado, and some other things I had never seen before! I was speechless; it was such a beautiful but unexpected gift. I wasn’t sure what to do with it all, but we shared some of it with those who were standing around. It felt like a mini-Thanksgiving in Haiti. I ate a mango and everyone laughed at me because I had juice all over my face and mango hair coming out of my teeth. I don’t know how they eat them and stay so clean. It was sooo good! We talked some but mostly just enjoyed one another’s company. When it was time to leave, I said, “I don’t want to give you a hug because I am so dirty.” I heard them say the word “rad” which means clothes, but didn’t understand what else they said. Robenson said, “Sarah, you are not dirty; your clothes are dirty.” (One of those comments that just makes you smile and think.) (Mom and Dad, I know that gift was intended for you too =)

I get so much joy out of giving- physical and material things and my love and services. It brings me so much joy. But it is sometimes hard for me to receive. However, if we want to grant others the joy of being able to give, there must be times in which we receive. Lorita and her family have thanked my family and me repeatedly for all we have done for them over the years, and being able to see them receive our gifts has felt like a bigger blessing for us than for them. But the table turned Thursday; it was a very humbling experience to receive their gifts, and I hope that they were able to receive the blessing of being able to give.

All of this happened within an hour, and I think I experienced every emotion possible.